Slice of Life

The days are creeping on by, but the weeks are flying. Life, I guess. Some days are so wonderful that I can hardly believe my luck, and some days I want to crawl into bed at 8pm, unhappy with myself for feeling inadequate and frustrated with my children for fighting non-stop. Yes, these children. Julian had brought a rose for his girlfriend, JJ.

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I have been sick for close to a month. I have zero energy, zero patience, zero drive and apparently zero immune system. But I’m powering through.

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On Saturday, the only day on Memorial Day weekend that Jeff didn’t have to work, we headed to the beach. It was magical. Just a few hours of jumping in the waves, playing sandy soccer and hearing my children giggle is really all I wanted.

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Later that night I went on a date with this handsome guy. We strolled along the Highline at dusk, marveled at all the new construction and brightly lit buildings, feeling lucky to be here in this city, our city.

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Other than that: Life. Appointments, soccer, bickering, never enough sleep, tasty dinners, school, work, play dates, friends, love, soccer, keeping it together.

 

 

Never A Dull Moment

Arthur has been attending a theater after-school class on Tuesday afternoons while Julian has soccer class, but yesterday he didn’t have his class for whatever reason, and I was excited to spend some time with my boy over coffee and a treat at the coffee shop down the street from his school, where we hang out often.

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Arthur chose a piece of lemon cake, a choice he’s made many times before – of course nut-free. Pretty much right away he said his mouth hurt, but he’s kind of been having a rash around his lips, so I thought that’s what it was. I looked inside his mouth, and everything looked fine.

On our way home Arthur complained about a belly ache and was overall a bit mopey, but I still didn’t really think too much of it. Once we got home, Arthur started coughing and basically couldn’t stop. I heard some wheezing. I should have given him an EPI right then, but I picked him up and ran-walked to urgent care right around the corner. Two hours after he had eaten the cake we were sitting in the waiting area, and I noticed one hive on each eyelid. That’s when I knew for sure what was going on.

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He was given Benadryl, steroids, and a breathing treatment. This was 15 minutes later, right before he was given an EPI injection. He was royally pissed at this point.

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That’s when five rather big firemen from our local firehouse walked into the room. “Hey kid. What’s your name?” and “How you doin’ Ahhhhthuuuuh?” My boy was utterly unimpressed. As it turns out, whichever emergency responder is closest has to show up at the “scene” and wait until EMTs arrive. Even though we were already at an urgent care clinic. So we hung out with the firemen.

Then the EMTs arrived, checked him out, did an EKG and we were on our way to  the hospital via this fancy ride:

None of this was even remotely interesting to Arthur, not even the sirens. As soon as we arrived at the hospital he made sure everyone we encountered knew how boooooored he was.

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Jeff and Julian met us at the hospital, and Arthur remained under observation until 9pm. Upon seeing Arthur on his little hospital bed, Julian said, “Wow. I will never forget this.”

I will spare you the pictures of his full body rash and the fake abs he had colored all over his belly the day before. I heard some of the nurses whisper about “the kid with the six pack…how cute!”

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Jeff made a pizza run, and the boys got to watch Ghostbusters.

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Arthur was fine. Arthur is fine.

Of course I slept next to him all night and was just so comforted to have him near me.

Last night as I was trying to process it all, I just felt so sad. Sad that this happened, that he had to go through this, that I couldn’t prevent it, couldn’t protect him. Today I am angry. I’m pissed off that my kid has to live with this constant threat to his wellbeing and, well, to his life. I’m pissed that despite being careful and mindful and asking questions, this still happened. We don’t know how exactly it happened. A nut, presumably a walnut, somehow must have snuck onto his plate, or his cake was close to another cake. We don’t know. The guy at the coffee shop almost cried when I told him what had happened this morning.

Anyway. Arthur went to school today; he is his bouncy, loud, silly self again. I’m the one who can’t shake what happened to him. But we’ll take whatever learning we can from this and hold him just a bit closer yet. Even though he’s continuously trying to wiggle free.

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See ya, winter!

Let’s hope this week’s snow storm, ringing in the official beginning of spring, was the last one until next winter. One can hope, right?

I have a pretty severe yearning for sunshine and bike rides. I think I’ve been patient with winter long enough, I’ve been tolerant and somewhat understanding, I’ve put up with very slow children who have to touch each individual bit of dirty city snow, I’ve been hit in the behind by more snowballs than I can count, I’ve been cold, I’ve had my glasses fog up, I’ve felt claustrophobic in my big coat on an overcrowded subway – but now I think we can all agree that it’s enough. Enough winter! Spring, you’re welcome to make your appearance any day now. We are ready for you. We can’t wait to get back on the bikes and ride all over our glorious city.

Meanwhile, that one (last) snow day was alright. I worked from home and somehow managed to keep the children alive for 13 hours straight. We squeezed in some snowy fun.

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Yesterday the kids played on the playground in the melting, wet, old snow – and they loved every minute of it.

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Other than yet another winter storm, life has been pretty normal. Jeff and I have been on a couple of dates; one to see our dear friend Joe Giglio play jazz in a lovely restaurant on MacDougal Street – and I ate one of the most delicious pizzas, ever. I ate the entire thing. It was so good.

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We also got our country on and saw Lee Ann Womack perform at City Winery, which was great and a bit odd, since we had to share a table meant for two with another (somewhat standoff-ish) couple.

On St. Patrick’s Day we were invited to a boozy, delicious brunch at our friends’ house, complete with rainbow bagels and eight nutty children to entertain each other.

The boys are constantly walking the line between loving each other and wanting to spend every waking and sleeping minute together – and trying to kill each other by all means necessary. They share Arthur’s bottom bunk on non-school nights; they read and chat until they eventually fall asleep. Of course a later bedtime does not mean that they will also sleep in late.

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But they also fight a lot more. Julian spends so much time on random projects – book writing, working on cursive, drawing, reading. All of it stuff that Arthur can’t really be a part of, and the little brother is feeling it, I think. He misses his playmate. Julian, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly more impatient with Arthur’s occasionally irrational behavior and is just sort of over it. But overall, they are still best friends and best brothers. Also, this:

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A Perfect NYC Day

Saturday started out strong with our brand-new Karate Kid, Arthur. I just love watching him in this class. He is super focused and truly does his best. At the end of the class, the kids all got to kick a board, and of course Arthur nailed it.

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The rest of Saturday was spent driving each other insane. It was windy and cold and we could not agree on anything fun to do. Then I started having massive back pain and laid in bed for a good part of the afternoon. Spirits and patience levels were pretty low.

On Sunday we knew we had to do something. So we packed up the kids and strolled around Soho, before having a delicious brunch on the Lower East Side.

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Afterwards we stopped by a few shops in the East Village, and much to Arthur’s delight we bought him this melodica-type instrument that he insisted would contribute in many great ways to the performances of his band, “Alice.”

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We let the boys run loose at Tompkins Square Park playground and enjoyed being out in the sun.

Then it was time for ice cream…

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We stopped by a Japanese toy shop and Jeff bought the boys these little Transformer guys. They were in heaven.

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Right before we got to the train stop, Jeff said, “Should we have a beer at McSorley’s?” We felt a bit odd walking in with our boys in tow, but as it turns out they were not the only kids there. Our waiter was so lovely and even brought them little muffins for dessert.

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It was a perfect NYC day.

On our way home I asked the kids why they thought this day was special, and they said “Because we had so many treats!” and “Because you bought us new toys!” but really we all agreed it was special because we are the luckiest people who live in the greatest city on earth, and we get to enjoy everything it has to offer without any big effort on our part. Or I should say “one of the greatest cities on earth” as Julian and Arthur pointed out, because after all many European cities have streetcars and New York City does not.

Karate Kid

Long time, no write. I’m tired of writing about how down we feel, so I was waiting for happy times to come along. Yesterday was a happy day.

A few weeks ago I had the notion that Arthur should start karate. For numerous reasons: body control, coordination, and strength (all things he works on in occupational therapy), confidence, respect, learning something new. Also, I wanted him to have something that is all his own and something his older brother hadn’t already done before him. In true Arthur fashion, stubborn to the core, he proclaimed until the minute he arrived at the karate center that he “hates” karate and doesn’t want to do “anything.” When his new teacher showed him around, Arthur just mumbled in a slightly annoyed tone, “I know that already.” Clearly he knew none of it. It’s just something he says; I think it makes him feel better somehow.

His teacher was very patient and all around wonderful. He gave Arthur a 30 minute introduction, which included breathing, some movements, and a story of persistence and obedience about a little boy who wanted to learn karate.

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Arthur was invited to stay for the class, and at the end he passed his white belt test.

I was over the moon proud. And so was he.

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The rest of the day was fun-filled. We had our friends and their kids (Arthur’s best friend from school and his little sister) over for Saturday brunch. It was so peaceful and fun. Everyone got along, we ate our weight in bagels and lox, bacon and eggs, with a side of orange juice and Bloody Marys.

Later in the afternoon we met Uncle Brian and Aunt Katherine in Dumbo. The boys rode their bikes.

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Going up a big hill, Arthur said to me, “Mama, I already learned this in karate: Never give up!”

The boys got to ride the carousel, and then we hung out at Superfine.

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Such a fun evening!

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The boys were exhausted and were happy to go to bed. This morning I overheard them in the bathroom, and Julian whispered to Arthur, “Let’s let Mama and Papa sleep a little while longer.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference.

Bits of Life

It’s Friday. That means I don’t go to work. Instead, Julian takes the bus to school, and I wash 5 to 7 loads of (industrial size washing machine type) laundry. Then I take Arthur to speech and OT, and this afternoon he has a play date. It’s a full day, but I also like this day with him.

He’s not the easiest person to be around these days. He is really angry and sad and will hit, cry, scream, kick and shove on any given day. But when he is done with his rage, he is just sad and apologetic. The other day, after a fit of rage, we had a bit of a breakthrough moment. In tears Arthur said things like “I’m so dumb. I make so many mistakes all the time.” It was really hard to hear, but I was glad that he could articulate a bit of what he feels. I think it must be tough being Arthur. He is the youngest, the slowest, the smallest (not for long I’m sure). His (very mature) big brother is his idol. Arthur is afraid of the dark, of being alone in his room, and he hates being last. Yet he is usually last.

I’m trying to wrap him in kindness and love. He loves back scratches, and just like my grandmother used to do to me, I scratch his back for as long as he wants me to. I try to hug him instead of yelling at him. But it is frustrating. It’s hard to see your one kid kick his brother (it goes the other way around, too).

Yesterday Julian had a friend over, and Arthur was over-the-top excited. So much so that he was too loud, too eager, too wild almost all of the time. By the end of the day I just wanted red wine and dumb TV.

BUT. But there’s also lots of beauty. So I will leave you with 10 fun things:

  1. Last weekend we went ice skating (for the first time ever) with Julian’s 1st grade.IMG_8137
  2. Julian’s been having lots of fun play dates, and I’m so happy he is making friends with lovely kids. His teachers told me that he is often a source of peace and calm for his class, which I think is wonderful. This was our disco dance party last night. Less peace and calm there. IMG_8315
  3. Arthur was in his first theater performance as the wolf in the Three Little Pigs! He did awesome, and I am so proud. Here is my kid who gets speech therapy three times a week, standing in front of a bunch of parents, teachers, and siblings, and no nerves at all! And that bow at the end! 

  4.  We went out to dinner this week celebrating our first “Country of the Month:” India. Yummy food!
  5. Jeff and I went to see Glen Hansard in concert, and on Saturday we’re seeing Jason Isbell. I love all three (including Jeff)!
  6. We get to spend more time with Jeff every day!
  7. Arthur is really into helping me in the kitchen and also smoothies. Both are good things!IMG_8117
  8. I started working out again after a long hiatus.
  9. I dreamed about my grandmother last night, and I felt so close to her when I woke up.
  10. Ghostbusters. Always ghostbusters.IMG_8174

The Struggle is Real

How to start? What to say?

When anyone asks me how we’re doing, I respond, “Oh, we’re great. Just fine.” Which is true. We’re fine. There is so much joy, and overall I feel like we’re some of the most fortunate people around.

But there is also some struggle, and lots of worries. Jeff’s Dad passed away on November 30th. Ten days later, and two weeks before Christmas, Jeff lost his job. It was a bit of a shock to our system, and I think it took us a month to start digesting, and now we’re still digesting. It is what it is, as I always say, and that’s true. We’re fine, we’re healthy, the kids are doing well, but Jeff still has nightmares – and of course we both worry a bit.

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While the Holidays were delightful and sort of a break from real life, I think the cold temperatures caught up with us in the end. The boys have been fighting more with each other and sort of bouncing off the walls (of our small Brooklyn apartment). My patience has been a wee bit stretched (this would be a euphemism), which ultimately just leads to me feeling inadequate and sort of rotten.

Also, we’ve been in a bit of a honeymoon phase with our children where we had no major things to worry about. Arthur works hard at speech, Julian excels in school. Arthur is taking a theater class that he loves, and we are all so excited for his performance next week. In fact, Julian said he would skip soccer practice so he won’t miss out on Arthur’s play. On the other hand, our days are packed with therapy sessions and running back and forth. Arthur has to work really hard. He’s made tremendous progress, but this is not easy for him. Just imagine you had to work so hard at something that just comes naturally to everyone else, and it is something as essential as being understood by others. He is very aware of the fact that this is work (not fun!), and it’s difficult to keep him motivated at times. So of course I worry, but I believe we are doing our best, and that is literally the best we can do. Arthur keeps us going with his free spirit, hilarious jokes, and midnight cuddles. How I ever got so lucky to be able to raise such a special creature – I don’t know.

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Julian, in the midst of a successful year in first grade, has been surrounded by (but thankfully not directly exposed to) some behavior from other kids I don’t love – and it just opens up a whole new realm of concern. You know how they say “Big Kid Big Worries?” (Is that actually a saying? Also, parents of teenagers feel free to laugh at me, it’s fine.) It’s definitely true. Jeff and I always say, we can’t just wing it anymore! These are real issues and Julian will remember stuff that’s happening, and potentially everything we do or don’t do will shape him into the man he will become. Sort of stressful, no? That said, he is a true delight. He is at the top of his class, an avid reader, story-teller and math wizard, subway lover, patient big brother and truly lovely son. I guess the pressure’s on us to keep it that way.

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So overall, we are fine. I enjoy my work, life is going its course. Right now there a few speed bumps along the way that are making us hit the brakes every now and then, but we’re still going strong.

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More Time

In case you’re feeling anything like us these days (tired, lacking patience, frustrated, generally bummed and also freezing), I thought I’d offer a few things that make me happy. For starters, this guy:

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Arthur and his Santa hat! He’s pretty committed to the hat this year, much to the delight of all the kids in his school as well as random passersby. And us, of course.

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Julian’s school photos. I mean! That kid. He has the most gorgeous smile, but he is absolutely incapable of smiling on command.

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Cookies! They make everyone feel better, right?

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Glühwein. Same as above. But no pictures, because we were busy trying not to let the kids spill our Glühwein.

Also: friends. I’m so thankful for our friends and family. The boys have been going on playdates, birthday parties, and we’ve hosted some friends at our place as well. Drop off dates are more frequent now, leaving Jeff and me with good chunks of time to ourselves on the weekends. This is the future, perhaps?

Also, can I just talk about time for a second here? I just wish I had more. My biggest struggle is getting places on time. I know many people anticipate the end of summer when the kids return to school and everything becomes more scheduled and predictable, but man, I miss those days so much. I love lazy days, hanging out at the playground or going on adventures with my boys. The drag of getting them out of bed, eating breakfast before the sun has even risen, and schlepping off to school in these frigid temperatures – just not my cup of tea. But that is life. Also, can we talk about how s.l.o.w. children walk once there is snow on the ground?!

This week marked three months since I’ve returned to work. My husband sent me flowers!

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But yes, we’re still adjusting. I love the work and my team, but the amount of tired I feel at night cannot be underestimated. It’s totally worth it though, because overall we’re all thriving, and I’m so happy that I have found this new, unexpected outlet that I didn’t even think I needed.

Meanwhile, these boys have high hopes for Christmas. Their letter is on the way…”We were good!” I’ll have to take their word for it.

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Snowy Day Thoughts

A month has passed since I last wrote. So much has happened, and it is hard to know where to pick up again.

We lost Jeff’s Dad to complications related to his cancer treatment last week, and it threw us all for a loop. We’ve all been so sad; it’s been all around difficult. Explaining to the children, comforting my husband, and whenever I think about my mother-in-law my heart just aches. They were married for 49 years. Lenny was such a big piece of this family’s puzzle; it is hard to imagine anything without him. Jeff wrote a beautiful obituary about his father; I’ve read it a dozen times, and it brings tears to my eyes every time.

But of course, life goes on. Julian was in a school performance this week; we were so proud.

He was so serious about it all; quite super duper heart-warming.

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Jeff and I went to a performance of another kind last month: Springsteen on Broadway. Mind blown. I mean, I’ve seen Bruce close to 20 times in my life, but never have I ever heard his voice so clearly and in such a small space. It was really wonderful; the acoustics (and the man) were amazing.

Other than that, we’ve been just doing our life. Work, school. We finally got our tree. Nikolaus came and brought the boys the much desired Rescue Bots and a decent amount of chocolate. The boys have their advent calendars and are excited to get up each morning. December is a good month.

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This weekend, we have one of Jeff’s old friends visiting: Inken, from Amsterdam. Naturally, we took her on a bike ride on our Dutch bikes. Of course, we also got this year’s first snow.

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We let the boys run around for bit…

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…before sitting down with massive jugs of hot cocoa. (Not pictured: Bloody Marys, tacos, guacamole)

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Last night we made pizza, a pretty regular occurrence in our house. But in this season in particular I feel so thankful for our home, our friends, our family, and for those three people sitting at my dining room table.

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Winter is Coming

Just kidding. It’s here.

The weather is changing, and we’ve been laying low. Gone are the days of endless bike rides and picnics. And for now, I am fine with that. These are the days of chess and reading, apple cider and muffins, meatloaf and red wine. I quickly moved onto food stuff there.

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The boys and I have been watching the 1955 movie “Sissi” with Romy Schneider. I thought they would get bored pretty much right away, but instead, they are captivated. The romance and love and humor is not lost on them. Last night, on the couch, Julian said, “Mama, ich bin so verliebt in dich.” Sissi is working. If you’re not German or Austrian, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Moving on. (Also: naps.)

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On Friday we had the annual St. Martin lantern walk with Arthur’s pre-school. They changed location last minute, so instead of walking along the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we found ourselves stumbling through a pitch black Prospect Park. Winter had suddenly arrived, and everyone was freezing. We took the boys out for pizza promptly thereafter. I mean, look at these faces.

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On Saturday night we drove to Asbury Park, NJ and spent the night celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday at this incredible pinball arcade. It was fantastic!

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Last weekend the boys rode their own bikes all the way to Red Hood. It was a big deal! We had lunch at Brooklyn Crab, and then they rode back. It was getting late, and cold, and all in all they rode a good 5 miles. I was so impressed! Jeff’s bike looks so empty without those extra 90 pounds on the back.

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We’re trying to settle into more indoor time – which sometimes leads to endless bickering between the boys. But also to sweet moments, laziness, lots of reading, and dancing in the kitchen.

Last night Julian and I danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wish” in our kitchen, which is very apropos if you know the song. He held my hand just the right way and twirled me around, even though I had to bend down a lot. I hope he’ll want to dance with me for many years to come. (Tomorrow night Jeff and I will be seeing Bruce on Broadway. I’m soooo excited!)

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